||This article needs more medical references for verification or relies too heavily on primary sources. (February 2014)|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2014)|
Rolfing is a massage therapy marketed by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI). The Institute states that Rolfing is a "holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organize(s) the whole body in gravity". Rolfing is essentially identical to Structural Integration, whereby a forceful massage technique is used in an attempt to reposition tissues under the skin.
There is no evidence Rolfing is effective for the treatment of any health condition.
Ida Pauline Rolf began working on massage in New York in the 1930s with the main goal of organizing the human structure in relation to gravity in order to help the chronically disabled unable to find help elsewhere. Her method, involving a programme of deep-tissue massages, was originally called "Postural Release" and later "Structural Integration" but became known as "Rolfing". In 1971 Rolf founded the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.
Structural Integration evolved out of a number of sources including osteopathy, (including cranial osteopathy), chiropractic medicine, yoga, and Korzybski’s general semantics. The focus of this work is based upon the premise that for the body to function properly its structure must first be secure so that it can use gravity for support, and that each segment of the body should relate properly to each other.
Structural Integrators use a multi-session approach in which specific strategies are developed which are claimed to guide each individual into "optimal balance". By the 1950s Rolf was teaching Postural Release.
In an effort to preserve the essential elements of Structural Integration in its teaching and practice, practitioners from a variety of schools formed the International Association of Structural Integrators (IASI)  in 2002. The IASI is now a worldwide membership organization for Structural Integrators whose mission is the advancement and promotion of SI as a cornerstone to health and wellbeing through education, community, and communication. The IASI protects the integrity of this work by maintaining standards that support the development of Structural Integration as a distinct vocation. Compliance with these established standards requires professionals to complete between 650 and 2,000 hours in specialized training programs and to maintain continuing education for ongoing professional status within the IASI. There is a certification exam for SI practitioners.
Theory and practice
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Skeletal muscles often work in opposing pairs called the "agonist" and the "antagonist", the one contracting while the other relaxes. Rolf theorized that "bound up" fasciae (connective tissues) often restrict opposing muscles from functioning in concert. She claimed to have found an association between pent-up emotions and tension in muscles. This claim of a muscular/emotional connection is not supported by scientific studies. She aimed to separate the fibers of bound up fasciae manually to loosen them and allow effective movement.
Rolfing is a forceful massage technique in which a practitioner will use their whole body to apply pressure. Rolfers manipulate the body in attempt to move the fascia until they believe it is operating in conjunction with the muscles in a "normal" fashion. This takes place over a course of ten 60- to 90-minute sessions, with a specific goal for each session and an overall goal of cumulative results. Some clients find Rolfing painful but it has evolved over the decades into a far more gentle practice than it was in its early days. On The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 Mehmet Oz likened Rolfing to having someone do yoga for you.
Only practitioners certified by RISI can use the title "Rolfer," or practice "Rolfing," due to service mark ownership. The Guild for Structural Integration is the other certifying body, whose graduates use the title "Practitioners of the Rolf Method of Structural Integration."
According to a 2004 scientific review, peer reviewed research on Rolfing is limited, lacking controlled clinical trials: "there is no evidence-based literature to support Rolfing in any specific disease group."
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